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Théo Aiolfi

Theo Aiolfi

Research Student

Areas: Politics and performance, Political style, Populism, Performativity

Supervised by: Silvija Jestrovic and Shirin Rai, D1.04


Théo Aiolfi is a PhD candidate in the Department of Politics and International Studies working in conjunction with the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies of the University of Warwick. He holds an MSc in Global Governance & Ethics from University College London (UCL) as well as a BA in International Relations from the University of Geneva (UNIGE).

Thesis Working Title

“Charting the populist style: Trump, Le Pen and the populist repertoire of nativism”

 Research interests

Théo’s interdisciplinary research is located at the intersection of politics and performance studies. Exploring the concept of political style, how politics is being performatively produced by political actors, his research focuses on the concept of populism. Challenging mainstream understandings of populism that define it as a (thin) ideology or a set of political beliefs, his thesis builds on the work of Laclau and Moffitt to develop an interdisciplinary definition of populism as a political style, an open-ended repertoire of political performances that articulate various conception of ‘the people’. In complement to the specialist literature on populism, Théo borrows the theoretical and methodological tools of performance studies to conduct a performance analysis inspired by Pavis, Taylor and Schechner. Focusing on right-wing populism, his thesis is a comparative case study of the cases of Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen during their presidential campaigns of 2016 and 2017, which examines the complex intersection between populism and nativism.

In addition to populism, performativity and politics as performance, his research interests also include discourse and visual analysis, semiotics, popular culture and theories of International Relations.

Théo’s project is supervised by Shirin Rai (PAIS) andSilvija Jestrovic (Theatre and Performance Studies) , and it is funded by a Departmental Scholarship offered by the department of Politics and International Studies.

  • Aiolfi, T. (2019). “Migration and Populism: Marine Le Pen as a Performer of Urgency” in Rosina, M. & S. Talani (Eds). Tidal Waves: The political economy of migration and populism in Europe. Peter Lang: Oxford.
  • Aiolfi, T. [Reviewer] (2019). “Book review of ‘Performing Antagonism Theatre, Performance & Radical Democracy’ by T. Fisher & E. Katsouraki [Eds]”. European Journal of Theatre and Performance. 1(1)
  • Aiolfi, T. (2015). “Is poststructuralism just another version of constructivism? Reconsidering the way constructivism is taught in IR Theory” in International Public Policy Review (IPPR). 9(2)
 Conference papers and presentations
  • 17/01/20: “Discrediting Radicality: Villains and Anti-Populism” – Popular Culture and World Politics V12 – University of Leeds
  • 16/04/19: “Between ordinariness and extraordinariness: Jean-Luc Mélenchon and charismatic leadership in left-wing populism” – Cultures of the Left in the Age of Right-Wing Populism – University of Warwick in Venice
  • 12/04/19: “Leaderless Populism and the Yellow Vests” – 3rd Populism Specialist Group (PSA) Workshop – Loughborough University
  • 28/11/18: “Charting the populist repertoire and analysing political performances: an introduction to the stylistic approach to populism” – School of Theatre & Performance Studies Research Seminar Series – University of Warwick
  • 18/10/18: “Post-truth and the quest for authenticity: Populists as transgressive actors” – Warwick Graduate Conference in Security Studies – University of Warwick
  • 13/09/18: “Through the Black Mirror: ‘The Waldo Moment’ as a caricature of Populism” – EISA 12th Pan-European Conference – University of Economics (VŠE) of Prague
  • 05/09/18: “The foreign policy of a Populist Leader: Boundary-producing Performances under the Trump Presidency” – BISA US Foreign Policy 13th Conference – Liverpool John Moores University
  • 21/06/18: “Populism as an addition to the Grammar of Politics and Performance” – Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Conference – University of Warwick
  • 19/06/18: “Migration and Populism: Le Pen as Performer of Urgency” – JMCE and MigPop Workshop – King’s College
  • 26/03/18: “Populists as Performers of Crisis: Le Pen’s Case During the 2017 Presidential Campaign” – PSA 68th Annual International Conference – Cardiff University
  • 24/03/18: “Fleshing out the stylistic approach to populism: The overlooked legacy of Performance Studies” – 2nd Populism Specialist Group (PSA) Workshop – University of Bath
 Teaching experience
  • 2019-20: Seminar Tutor and Guest Lecturer for Performance Analysis (TH116 – 1st year UG module), Department of Theatre and Performance, University of Warwick.
  • 2018-20: Seminar Tutor for World Politics (PO131 – 1st year UG module), Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Warwick
  • 2019: Guest Lecturer for Inter-Performance (TH248 - 2nd year UG module), Department of Theatre and Performance, University of Warwick
  • 2018-19: Seminar Tutor for Politics, Governance and Corporate Accountability (IB2480), Warwick Business School, University of Warwick
  • 2018: Seminar Tutor for Foundations of Political Economy (PO133 – 1st year UG module), Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Warwick
Office hours:

Mondays from 14:00 to 16:00


D2.09 (PAIS)


Undergraduate module

TH116: Performance Analysis
PO131: World Politics